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Centenarian poetry scholar wows audience at Tianjin symposium

By Yang Cheng in Tianjin | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-01 08:46

Chinese poetry scholar Florence Chia-ying Yeh speaks during an international symposium on teaching Chinese poetry at Nankai University in Tianjin on Oct 15. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The audience was captivated when 100-year-old Florence Chia-ying Yeh, a renowned Chinese poetry scholar, made a rare appearance at Nankai University on Oct 15 during an international symposium on teaching Chinese poetry.

She delivered a lecture on Chinese poetry and shared her reasons for choosing to live in Tianjin's Nankai district.

When Yeh concluded her speech, the audience stood to applaud her expertise and tireless efforts in promoting Chinese poetry around the world.

"I have dedicated my entire life to teaching and sincerely hope to transmit the beauty of both the logic and emotion found in ancient poetry to the younger generation," Yeh said.

She explained that after teaching in various locations outside the Chinese mainland, including the United States, Canada and Taiwan, she chose to settle in Nankai in the 1980s.

Yeh also shared an anecdote about her nickname, Little Lotus, saying she was born when the lotus flowers were blooming.

Enchanted by the lotuses in a lake at Nankai University in the 1980s, she decided to teach there after retiring from her job in Canada. During the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yeh taught Chinese poetry on social media platforms, garnering widespread appreciation for her dedication.

On Sept 5, a rebroadcast of one of Yeh's lectures on Nankai University's account on Douyin, a social media platform, was watched by 600,000 people.

Yeh, born into a literary family in Beijing, displayed a talent for poetry at a young age, going on to graduate with a major in Chinese literature from Fu Jen Catholic University. After marrying and relocating to Taiwan with her husband in 1948, she pursued a career as an educator, writer and traditional Chinese poetry researcher.

One of the few Chinese scholars to teach traditional Chinese poetry in English in the US in the 1960s, Yeh worked at prestigious institutions including Harvard University and Michigan State University, before settling in Canada as a professor at the University of British Columbia.

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